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22nd of April 2018

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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Southwest Times Record. April 8, 2018.

Last week’s teacher walkout in Oklahoma opened eyes across the country. We applaud Oklahoma educators for taking charge of their own futures as well as the futures of their students. Oklahoma teachers have been underpaid for years, and its schools have been underfunded. By supporting last week’s walkout by Oklahoma teachers, we’re also supporting Oklahoma’s students, who deserve better than having to endure what too little funding means for their education.

Teachers are seeking a $10,000 pay package over three years, as well as more funding for school programs and support personnel raises. Oklahoma lawmakers did pass a tax bill to fund teacher pay raises ranging from $5,000 to $8,000 a year just before the strike deadline, but it did not match what teachers were demanding. Friday, the Senate approved a plan that would provide about $40 million more, but Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest told teachers that for the walkout to end, lawmakers must eliminate a capital gains tax exemption, and the governor must veto a repeal of a proposed lodging tax, which they say supports business but not schools or other state services.

“We’ve always shown a roadmap forward, and the Legislature has had all the opportunities to make the votes and pass the funding,” Priest said. “Everything is in their corner.”

Teachers have been criticized over the walkout, but we believe it’s important to note that yes, teachers walked out for themselves, but they also walked out for their students. It’s about much more than their paychecks. Many teachers cited the poor conditions they and their students experience in poorly funded schools, from classrooms with too many students to textbooks that are falling apart. Some districts are staying open just four days a week in order to cut costs. Teachers are tired of digging into their own pockets to make their classrooms function.

“We’re trying to get the Legislature to fund the entirety of our education system,” Roland High School teacher Steven Ostrander said last week. “We’re really hurting for money for classrooms, for textbooks, for technology - the tools we need to do our jobs to the best of our ability. A lot of what they’re trying to do is give teachers a raise just to give teachers to give up this whole fight and that’s not what we’ve been in this whole fight to begin with.”

The walkout has wreaked havoc throughout school districts, with many parents scrambling to find child care and sporting events canceled or postponed. But if a walkout didn’t wreak havoc, would there be any point to it? The disruption was essential in getting the point across, and we hope that point has been heard loud and clear. Many school districts had unused snow days that will help make up the difference in their calendars, but a walkout that continues much longer will change that. There’s no denying that students suffer when their learning is disrupted, but in the long run, what teachers are doing now will have a positive effect on children’s future.

Gov. Mary Fallin previously said she hoped the teachers, instead of walking out, would descend on the Capitol to say thank you for the pay raise, but instead, they showed up in droves to demand more. Gov. Fallin, meanwhile, compared the teachers with selfish teenagers during an interview with CBS News, saying, “teachers want more, but it’s kind of like having a teenage kid that wants a better car.” Teachers aren’t asking to be paid more, just fairly. We don’t believe this puts them in the same category as a teenager who wants a shiny, new car, and Gov. Fallin was wrong to make the comparison. Teachers are adults with bills to pay and families to feed, and many of them work a second job just to make ends meet. They deserve better.

What’s troubling is that the walkouts didn’t have to happen at all. For too many years, funding for education was put on the back burner, and now the issue has boiled over. Teachers are angry, and rightfully so. The movement that began in West Virginia quickly spread to other states, including Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona. Educators have shown the country what they can do when they band together over a common cause. They were forced into the situation because lawmakers, for so many years, made choices on funding and appropriations that proved to be inadequate.

We hope to see the circumstances surrounding the walkout resolved soon. We want the walkout to end, and we want students and teachers back in school. Students shouldn’t be away from the classroom any longer than they have to be. But addressing the issue has been long overdue. It took teachers walking out (and schools closing) for any progress to be made. Oklahoma owes its students and its teachers more. There must be more investment in public education, which is what Oklahoma’s educators are asking for. Teachers need to know their state - and their governor - are listening.

___

Texarkana Gazette. April 8, 2018.

If you are a Texarkana, Arkansas, resident on Medicaid, you may soon receive a notice in the mail.

Starting in May, the Arkansas Works Medicaid program will start sending letters informing recipients of new work requirements that will take effect in July.

The new law requires those ages 19 to 49 to work, attend school or job training/search classes or volunteer for at least 20 hours a week, for a total of 80 hours a month.

In 2018, only those 30 to 49 will be required to comply. Starting in 2019, those 19 to 29 will be phased into the program.

If you get a letter in May, you have to start putting in your hours by July 5. If you get a letter in June, then you have until Aug. 5, and so on. Fail to comply for three months in any one year and you will be thrown off Medicaid for a year.

Those already working at least 80 hours a month and those with dependent children living with them or who care for someone who is incapacitated are exempt from work requirements, as are individuals enrolled in a drug or alcohol treatment program. About 9,100 of the 284,000 Arkansans on Medicaid will be required to report for work or other required activity by July 5. And each month, more will be notified of their new responsibility.

The state is offering free help with job searches as well as various training programs.

Other states have passed work requirements for Medicaid, but Arkansas will be the first state to actually put them into action. That means a lot of eyes will be on the Natural State to see how it goes.

We are hopeful this works out. But passing work requirements and actually finding jobs or spots in training programs for all these folks is something else. Even finding enough volunteer hours for so many folks might prove challenging. But we’ll keep an open mind. We hope Medicaid recipients do as well. Who knows? A part-time gig might lead into something better for the future.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. April 10, 2018.

A trade war is a painful event to watch, let alone be part of. And one is getting underway between a still nominally Communist China and a formally capitalist United States of America.

This confrontation threatens to be the World War III of trade wars. Our president and agitator-in-chief, Donald J. Trump, pours fuel on the fire by swinging out not just against the Chinese but the very tribunal before which the United States proposes to argue its case: the World Trade Organization. The president sounds like an unhappy plaintiff even before he’s lost his case. There’s no telling what he’ll do or say next as he proceeds to lose friends and undermine America’s influence the world over. The man seems to have no discernible strategy for pursuing the war he has begun.

The president’s chief economic adviser is another television personality. His name is Larry Kudlow, and he admits: “We haven’t yet given China a list of demands on what we want. We haven’t done that but such a list is under discussion.” Now he tells us. He also says that “back-channel discussions” with China are underway, whatever that means. Your guess, Dear Reader, is as good or bad as ours. But the leading power of the all too scrutable West, formerly known as the free world, seems as confused as ever if not more so.

How far we’ve come since the United States had a plain-spoken president named Harry S. Truman and a thoughtful secretary of state, Dean Acheson, who was present at the creation of an understandable foreign policy and had the persistence to stick with it. Instead all we seem to get from this White House is a series of gripes.

Here, for bad example, is an ill-tempered tweet the other day that’s less cogent than just sore at the Chinese and maybe the rest of the world. In it, our irascible president complained that Red China “get tremendous perks and advantages, especially over the U.S. Does anybody think this is fair. We were badly represented. The WTO is unfair to U.S.” But just who represents the United States at the WTO except a delegation chosen by President Trump himself? Our leader feels no need to go into the kind of detail that would expose his own case as little more than a long series of tweets with no discernible point except to blame all comers to this free-for-all—except, naturally, himself.

This president is supposed to be a showman, yet he fails even at that dubious calling for a chief executive, for his act grew boring a long time ago. He sounds mighty defensive for someone who claims he has nothing to be defensive about. He seems to be engaged in a never-ending campaign rally rather than a serious attempt at leadership. He claims new tariffs he slapped on mainland China - and other countries - haven’t hurt American consumers despite all the fears expressed by his critics.

“Despite the Aluminum Tariffs, Aluminum prices are DOWN 4%,” he tweeted. “People are surprised, I’m not! Lots of money coming into U.S. coffers and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” What the president failed to note is that the price of aluminum began to fall in February before he announced the tariff. In large part, the stability of the American market for aluminum may be attributed to the administration’s deciding to exempt our Canadian ally from these punitive tariffs it has imposed on all other importers. Canada supplied more than half of American aluminum imports in 2016, and so has helped cushion the blow that the Trump administration’s tariffs inflicted on the American economy. Trying to catch this administration in a consistency is as challenging as netting a slippery eel.

And so it goes from day to day or even from minute to minute given the speed of today’s social media. To quote Matthew Shay, who presides over this country’s National Retail Federation, “This is what a trade war looks like, and what we have warned against from the start. We are on a dangerous downward spiral, and American families will be on the losing end. … We urge the administration to change course and stop playing a game of chicken with the nation’s economy.” But how change this administration’s course when it’s still not at all clear what that course is - except always to claim it’s chosen the right one, whatever that may be?

This administration seems to have no idea where it’s headed except the shoals of uncertainty. The captain of the good ship USS America seems to have headed down below, where he issues periodic bulletins assuring the American public that all is well when it’s anything but. If you know where we’re going, Gentle Reader, you may be far ahead of us, and certainly ahead of this Trumped-up administration.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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